Poetry Meets the World’s Oldest Profession
While poetry may not stand tall in most of society’s cerebral real estate, it surely has its place…at a brothel.
After seeing my professor Jennifer Michael Hecht perform with The Poetry Brothel (produced by The Poetry Society of New York, LLC), I wanted to too. Meeting Stephanie Berger, its madame and founder, I was seduced into a glittering speakeasy where caped gentlemen and peacock-haired dames delivered poetry to its captives.
The Poetry Brothel, which is sponsored by Fractured Atlas and founded in New York City, provides an immersive poetry experience, bringing listeners (who buy tokens that function as currency for a poetry reading with a poetry whore) into a bordello where character and wordplay blur. The whore delivers a central experience; she or he becomes a butler, a mermaid, a tiger trainer, a pin-up–and reads poetry.
The Poetry Brothel’s central strength is its talent. That’s the reason why they have flared, like geographic lust, across cities and countries–New Orleans, California, Chicago, Hanoi, Canada and Spain, to name a few. The culture of poetry is evolving and spreading.
While a typical poetry reading might feature a few poets at a podium, The Poetry Brothel is dedicated to promoting talented poets and seducing listeners, who might interrupt the reading with questions and ultimately connect with the poet on a deeper level.
As a performer (Luna Liprari), I witness poetry’s prowess. I’ve read to other lemme-see-whatcha-got poets, curious couples, and poetic virgins. Most people leave enchanted, questioning lines, wanting to come back. Poetry is still alive and kicking, and strengthened by The Poetry Brothel, even if its saucy aesthetic may invite debate–about feminism and prostitution, for starters. I’m aware of the comments and I’m interested in most opinions so long as they are informed. As a poet, I relish this debate. People are talking! About poetry! Come again?
Poetry has claimed its place in modernity. It’s woven, too, into technological climates: this summer, the Poetry Brothel will debut its literary journal, Quartier Rouge. Considering the way of the literary future (even the Paris Review has gone digital), the founders will present a video journal where viewers can pay for and watch a poetic performance happening right before them.
Fear not, The Brothel hasn’t penned away the serendipity of pages and fonts; it will debut its own imprint, Brothel Books, as well. I suspect the books will be available at events, passed between reader and poet, fondled in the dim, red light of a tea-cup speakeasy.
As for people who prefer their poetry nicely tucked into a best-of collection or an academic journal, I’m trusting that poetry lovers–and poetry itself–can survive new modes of presentation, so long as the poetry is good. Enveloping the verse in a little magic can’t hurt.
Watch patrons and poetry whores interact in the intimate setting of the brothel.